NEWCASTLE • Asia's representation in the Rugby World Cup knockout stages now hinges on a small island nation.
Japan are looking to Samoa for a favour today when the Pacific islanders take on Scotland in a Pool B clash. Scotland need a victory to join pool winners South Africa in the quarter-finals at the expense of Eddie Jones' men.
Samoa are out of the reckoning with only one win so far against the United States.
But they have a burning desire to finish on a high and they did beat Scotland 27-17 the last time they met two years ago.
"It is the qualifying game," Scotland coach Vern Cotter said, with an emphasis on "the". "This probably rounds the whole thing up. We've got 80 minutes to put in a very, very good performance."
Scotland's biggest problem has been their slowness to adapt to the pace of the game.
Against the US, they trailed 6-13 at half-time before winning 39-16. Against Japan, they held a slender 12-10 lead after 46 minutes before putting the hammer down and winning 45-10.
There was no comeback against South Africa when they were quickly down 3-20 and eventually lost 16-34.
Cotter said they could not afford to let that happen again.
If Scotland slip up, Japan can make the last eight for the first time with a bonus-point draw against the US tomorrow.
Samoa are not without incentives. They can finish third in the group - and qualify automatically for the 2019 edition - with a bonus-point win against Scotland.
Samoa coach Stephen Betham said the islanders would not be making it easy for Scotland even without regular skipper Ofisa Treviranus, who has been ruled out of the match, and Alesana Tuilagi, who has been suspended for a week. The islanders believe they have not lived up to expectations and Scotland offer a last chance to show how good they can be.
POOL B: SAMOA V SCOTLAND
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